Rigour is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.
In order to create long-lasting change in a school, having a shared understanding of rigour among all stakeholders is critical. How do you build that common understanding? I’d like to share some strategies I use when working with schools.
First, it’s important to understand what teachers and leaders currently believe about rigour. I start by asking the group to anonymously answer three questions.
Once they have answered these questions, we discuss each in turn. I typically chart out common responses so we can see any patterns. Next, it’s helpful to read articles and books about rigour and discuss them. I usually start with The Beginner’s Guide to Rigor as an overview of rigour. After talking about the key points, we compare this information to our earlier responses.
A second strategy is to watch teaching videos and assess them for rigorous instruction. I use a rigour rubric, and there are a variety of types available online. Using a rubric or framework, I ask teachers and leaders to note any examples of rigorous instruction, as well as any non-rigorous instruction. I also ask them to make note of any improvements they might make. These observations make for a rich discussion.
Sample Criteria for Rigorous Instruction
Finally, we work together to assess tasks and assignments. These might be projects, worksheets, tests, or other items, particularly those that are teacher developed. After sharing initial perceptions of an assignment, we delve deeper into specific aspects or questions, again using a rubric of characteristics.
By looking for these specific types of questions and responses, we are able to determine if assignments are truly rigorous.
Building a shared understanding of rigour can be challenging, but there are professional development activities that can help. Reading quality information, critiquing videos, and assessing tasks will help teachers and leaders develop a common awareness of the true meaning of rigour.
Barbara R. Blackburn, Ph.D
Barbara is the author of 30 books on rigour, motivation, student learning, and leadership such as Rigor is NOT a Four Letter Word; Rigor in the English/Language Arts and Social Studies Classroom and Rigor in the Math/Science Classroom; Money for Good Grades and Other Myths about Motivating Your Child, and 7 Strategies for School Improvement. She is a top 30 Global Guru in Education, an international speaker who presents online and in-person and has over 30 years in education.